Beekeeping In May
May is when packaged bees or nucleus (NUC) colonies start arriving. Spring is springing and the
bees are ready to get into full foraging mode. If you are receiving your bees this month, it can be
an exciting time and new beekeepers may want to check on their bees constantly, but DON’T DO IT.
Let the bees acclimate to their new hive. You can begin to spend more time with them after a few
The heaviest nectar flows begin in the third week of April and will normally last for about two months. The
queen is laying well now. The hive is expanding rapidly.
In very the early spring, trees and shrubs with early blooms are critical for honey bees and our native bees
Read about how early-blooming trees provide needed resources for bees: Trees For Bees
The installation season is now. If you have not already installed your bees, you will install them
Watch online video walk-throughs of installations for both packages and nucleus colonies.
When you install a package, the worker bees should release the queen within a week. The
bees should start building comb by this time.
As soon as the bees build comb, look for the queen to start laying eggs
Within 2 weeks of installation, you should be able to see eggs and larva. If you don’t see
either of these signs, it may be time to requeen the colony
The colony will steadily grow until they fill the space, so be sure to monitor this weekly
for the first month and place more bars in the hive, as necessary
By the end of May, you should see fully drawn out comb, brood, and possibly even
If the blooms are not super abundant, keep feeding the bees with a 1:1 solution of sugar
During inspections, locate brood comb, and look for eggs. It’s possible that although the
colony made it through the winter, the queen may not be laying eggs. As a beekeeper, it
might be time to consider requeening the colony
When identifying eggs, larva, and capped brood, the quantity should be enough to revive
the hive from the previous year. During the middle of the summer, a colony will typically
have 40,000-60,000 bees
As soon as the bees start gathering fresh nectar and capping new honey, feel free to
remove the overwintered honey and harvest it.
The bees should be pulling in a lot of pollen. Be sure to note the color, and if possible,
the source of the pollen on your inspection forms.
Because the colony survived, it is more likely to swarm. Be sure the colony has enough
room to grow. Make sure there are enough empty bars for the bees to build upon. Early
signs of swarming are as follows:
Teacup Cells: The bees may create teacup-shaped cells. These unique cells will be
unfilled at first, but it means the workers are preparing to feed and cap a new queen
The colony creates drone bees: Look for the larger brood cells, and watch for high
quantities. This means that the colony is getting ready to pass on genetics to other
queens, as well
Protect unused supers with Para Dicholorobenzene (PDB) by placing the pack of crystals
near the stored honey supers to control wax moths.
You will want to implement a swarm management strategy. Keep in mind that bees swarm as a
way of multiplying. It is not a sign of being a poor beekeeper. There are some important steps
to implement to try to prevent swarming. Keep in mind that you must provide room for your hive
to expand. And, you should put on honey supers no later than early April.
Put on as many supers of drawn comb as you'd like. Some experts think it is good practice to
have a minimum of two drawn honey supers on all hives during the nectar season. Three or four
supers are even better. Don't wait to add your supers or you may miss particular nectar flows.
Get all supers on by April 1st!
Consider having extra, empty hives on hand so you'll be able to capture a swarm. You will want to
capture your own swarms or you will probably receive phone calls once your neighbors learn you
are a beekeeper. Some beekeepers receive several calls each week all spring and summer.
Here are a few books that might be of help!!
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson
Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard
Our Native Bees by Paige Embry
Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about honey bee anatomy. Honey Bees play an
important role in pollination. Give the quiz a try!
Ever wondered where bees go in the winter? Take a look at the winter survival strategies
of native bumblebees, and native solitary bees.
This guide features regional native plants for the Great Lakes that are highly
attractive to native bees and honey bees.